ABU DHABI // A UAE-funded hospital in Kabul that has been empty for four years could finally open if talks between Afghan and UAE authorities are successful.
The Zayed Mother and Child Hospital, Kabul’s biggest, was completed almost four years ago with a Dh20 million donation from the UAE. But it remains closed because it lacks money to pay staff.
Fazlullah Reshteen, a counsellor at the Afghan Embassy in the UAE, said officials there have been negotiating with UAE authorities for the past three months in an effort to secure the money needed.
The Afghan ministry of health calculates that it needs Dh9.18m to run the hospital for the first year, and then further funding for 10 years.
The UAE funding would be decreased by 10 per cent a year, until the hospital was entirely self-funding. “Within 10 years the patient will pay everything,” said Mr Reshteen. “The hospital is very much needed, and important. Patients now have to go to India and Pakistan for treatment, the costs are far too large for a common Afghani.”
Aside from staff, the hospital is ready to go. “It is already fully equipped and has 100 beds,” he said. “It is the biggest hospital in Kabul.”
The donation for the hospital is just one element of the UAE’s help for Afghanistan, he said. “The UAE is considered the biggest donor [to Afghanistan] in the Arab world,” he said. “Not just now, but since [the time of the American invasion].”
Since 2003, the UAE has had an effective presence in the country.
It has also funded a healthcare complex with a clinic that can treat 150 patients daily, four surgical wards, an X-ray department and three wards for inpatients.
The UAE sent female doctors to treat women and children, in keeping with culture sensitivities.
“Advanced healthcare facilities are now not more than two hours away” for people in any part of Afghanistan, the Armed Forces have said, adding that the child-mortality rate had been reduced by 22 per cent since 2001.
According to the UAE Office for coordination of Foreign Aid, the UAE donated Dh35.7m for health projects in Afghanistan last year – Dh32m on infectious disease control and Dh3.3m for medical services. Overall, the country sent close to Dh343m in aid there last year.
Mr Reshteen said what was needed now was to train Afghan medical staff. “I would like Afghan doctors to come to the UAE and get training,” he said. “The minister of health in Afghanistan also suggested this. We would like to send our girls to learn nursing. We have a shortage in doctors and nurses.”
This week, an orthopaedics and trauma surgeon and two nurses from the UAE joined staff at the Spanish-led Role 2 Hospital of the Herat Forward Support Base within Camp Arena, the base of the Italian-led command for western Afghanistan.
They will help provide mentoring and training for Afghan medical units at local facilities, as well as provide support to the Afghan national army and the Afghan national police.